Should Dogs Have Their Teeth Brushed As Much As Humans?

When it comes to dental care for your dog, it’s helpful to remember that their needs are very similar to your own.

By Guest Blogger, Chris Berry

When it comes to dental care for your dog, it’s helpful to remember that their needs are very similar to your own. Just like humans, dogs need their teeth brushed on a regular basis and should also get professional cleanings.

This is because dogs are also susceptible to a variety of gum diseases and complications if they have poor oral hygiene.

Some people think it’s silly or even unnatural to brush a dog’s teeth. After all, dogs went hundreds of years without dental care, and wild dogs are still out there today who aren’t swinging by their local vet for a teeth cleaning every six months.

While this is true, humans used to know nothing about dental care either – and their teeth fell out, they had gum diseases, and their life expectancy was shorter. In the same way, just because dogs haven’t had proper dental care in the past doesn’t mean they don’t need it now.

Why Should I Brush My Dog’s Teeth?

Dogs need to have their teeth brushed often to keep them healthy and avoid diseases. Just like humans, plaque will builds up on a dog’s teeth over time and can seep into the gums. This can become painful for your pet, even if they aren’t displaying any signs of pain. This can also lead to loose teeth, gingivitis, and the growth of bacteria in the gums, which eventually makes its way into their bloodstream.

Infections in the blood can cause organ failure and heart disease, which can be fatal. Dogs aren’t able to voice pain and discomfort in the same way as humans therefore, many illnesses worsen before they are noticed.

When to Brush or Visit the Vet?

A pet’s teeth could be brushed after every meal however, a couple times a week is more realistic both for the pet and the owner. Avoid brushing your pet’s gums as it can push the existing bacteria deeper into their gums and increase the chances of infection. Professional cleanings should be done every six months to properly clean the gums, check for infections and broken teeth.

The process is painless for the dog as they’re placed under anesthesia for the procedure. While more owners may be weary of putting their pet under for a teeth cleaning, Dr. Geoffrey Trucchetti assures owners that there’s low risk factors associated with anesthesia.

What Should I Use?

It’s very important not to use human toothpaste on your dog. There are many dog teeth brushing packs on the market that will ensure total safety for your pet.

If you believe in natural ingredients, there are also many DIY recipes that are safe for your pet. The reason for this? Pets aren’t able to spit out the remaining paste in their mouths meaning the ingredients in the toothpaste must be safe to swallow.

How do I Brush My Dog’s Teeth?

Brushing your dog’s teeth should be as stress-free as possible. Positive reinforcements, especially with treats, are a great way to make your dog look forward to teeth-cleaning time. When first introducing a dog to this practice, start slowly by cleaning small sections so they can get used to it, then work up to full mouth coverage over time.

Never force your dog’s mouth open. Instead, lift their lips up and brush the outer surfaces. If you can get the inside of your dog’s mouth, that’s great! But most pets will panic if you try to hold their mouth open and maneuver a brush in there. Instead, leave that part for the professional cleanings unless otherwise instructed by your vet. 

Other Ways to Promote Good Dental Health

If your dog just won’t let you brush their teeth, or if you’re especially diligent, try these tips:

  • Feed them hard food, which is less like to stick to their gums
  • Give them treats specifically formulated to promote dental health
  • Rawhide or other hard treats can also help as chewing on them will naturally scrape away plaque
  • Encourage them to play with chew toys, especially after meals, as this will also help scrape away food